I just recently got home from South Africa, and I am already dreaming of the day I can go back!
When you think of your dream vacation, would South Africa be on the top of the list? Probably not.
It may be on your vacation list if you are an animal lover like me, or if you are drawn to beautiful coastal towns such as Cape Town, or if you have seen pictures of some of the luxury safari lodges in a travel magazine. It had always been a dream of mine to go for all those reasons. To see the Big 5 on an African safari was on my list of Fit Life Pursuits’ adventure goals. And I did it!
South Africa was one of the most unique places I have ever been. Going to Africa was one of my dream vacations, but it wasn’t on my radar for the near future. We try to take one international trip a year and we had already gone to Tahiti/Bora Bora/Moorea back in July. We figured a trip to South Africa would still be a few years down the road (my husband really wants to ski in Chili).
The Opportunity of a Lifetime
So, the trip came about when I was offered the opportunity to be a part of a hearing mission in Soweto, South Africa. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they were providing some of the funding for the trip so of course we decided to make it happen!
After a 16 hour flight from the States to Johannesburg, we started the trip by volunteering in Soweto. We fit hearing aids on over 500 people in need with The Starkey Hearing Foundation. I am an Audiologist so it was really awesome to be able to use some of my knowledge and skills to help people in need. My heart has always been with doing hands-on mission work so I hope to be a part of this again!
Cape Town, South Africa
After leaving Johannesburg, we traveled to Cape Town. I honestly didn’t think I would like Cape Town that much because I just figured it was another big city in the world. I’m not really a fan of big cities. But, Cape Town was different. The coastline was beautiful and smack dab in the middle of the city is a bunch of mountains, the most popular being Table Mountain.
We really wanted to hike up Table Mountain (which typically can take 2 hours we were told) but I was feeling really sick that day so we opted to take the cable car up. Once you reach the top, it’s like a whole new world. The 360 degree views of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain were amazing. You can spend hours walking around the top and around the perimeter of the mountain just gazing down at the city and the coastline. We took lots of pictures and just tried to take it all in.
If we ever do get to go back to Cape Town, I am definitely going to hike (or climb) to the top! It’s now on my list. We saw a lot of climbers (mostly women…girl power!) scaling the side of the mountain while we took our leisurely ride in the cable car. I was jealous. Next time!
In Cape Town we also explored the waterfront area, which has a really cool warehouse with some local vendors where you can shop or get snacks.
Last but not least, we visited the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, the most South-Western point of Africa. Again, the views here were incredible. We took a little hike up to the lighthouse and had a really good time watching a family of baboons jump on our car looking for a way in for some food. They were hilarious!!
Let’s Take a Safari!
After spending a few days in Cape Town, we traveled to Kruger National Park and then the Sabi Sands Game Reserve where we stayed for four nights at the Lion Sands lodges. They were beautiful!
We went on 8 safaris and one bush walk. If you love animals or get excited about seeing new things, you MUST do this! At each lodge you have a tracker and a ranger. These guys are amazing! They can track down pretty much any animal you want to see by their prints in the sand, their sounds, and their smells. They are so knowledgeable about the wildlife and they seemed to really love what they do. We got to know our ranger (John) and tracker (Rexton) at our first lodge really well. They were great!
You can’t go out into the bush without these guys because there are animals everywhere! They really emphasize preserving and protecting the wildlife of the area, which I think is great. We got to see the Big 5 animals (rhino, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and lion) as well as so many other animals you can’t see anywhere else in the world! Seeing the Big 5 on an African safari was one of my Fit Life Pursuits, and at the age of 30 I did it!
The coolest thing about it is that you are seeing these animals in THEIR natural habitat. Not in a zoo or somewhere that has been humanized. These animals live in this wildlife and you are the visitor. The roads are not paved and you can drive miles in the Land Rover without seeing another car. For that reason, a lot of safety precautions are taken to make sure we don’t disturb the animals and they don’t disturb (or attack) us.
Treehouse Adventure…and it was an adventure!
One night we decided to stay in a treehouse in the middle of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. It was an open treehouse in the middle of nowhere with a bed, couch, table, and bathroom. It was beautiful, awesome, and scary all at the same time!
We were up high so no animals could reach us (except the bugs, which were a pain) but we could look down and catch an animal walking by below us. While we were out there we saw a few hippos, a hyena, an elephant, and a bunch of impala. Listening to all the wildlife noises in the middle of the night made for a sleepless night, but it ended up being one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.
The people in South Africa were so nice. They were some of the nicest I’ve met so far on our adventures around the world. I hope to go back and see John and Rexton again at the Narina Lodge in Kruger, and I hope to climb table mountain in Cape Town one of these days!
Oh, and I was completely obsessed with the baby monkeys! Adorable!